‘Ethical sex-ploration’ and two other trends that Bumble predicts will shape our dating lives in 2023

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Nov 16, 2022 at 03:05 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

When it comes to dating, the devil—aka that supposed ‘pro-surfer’ who chatted to you for weeks, met your mum over FaceTime, and then ditched midway through a round of appetisers—works hard, but Bumble works harder. The year is almost over, and while questionable online habits such as winter coating and reverse catfishing lay to waste in the graveyard of 2022, a new horizon is approaching, filled to the brim with fresh dating trends geared towards us, the most chaotic yet purposeful and diverse cohort to date: gen Z.

Bumble gathered this data by conducting internal polling from 12 October to 1 November 2022 using a sample of 14,300 users from around the world.

So, with the women-first dating app’s forecasts fresh and warm in my hands, let me take you on a journey to explore and explain three of the most gen Z-orientated trends set to dominate our romantic lives in 2023.

1. Ethical sex-ploration

Bumble has an extensive history of championing progressive and healthy habits when it comes to our swiping and liking habits. Both its zero-tolerance for ghosting as well as its participation in the fight against cyberflashing clearly shines a light on the company prioritising the promotion of constructive and safe online connections.

This latest trend is no different. SCREENSHOT was lucky enough to sneak a peak, and when we heard about ‘Ethical sex-ploration’, our ears pricked up. As Bumble explains, “The way that we are talking, thinking about, and having sex is changing.” According to the app’s data, 42 per cent of us are approaching sex, intimacy, and dating in an open and exploratory way, and sex is no longer taboo. In fact, more than half of the daters surveyed agreed that it’s important to discuss sexual wants and needs early on in a relationship.

Over the past year, 20 per cent have explored their sexuality more, and 14 per cent are considering a non-monogamous relationship. It’s true that gen Z is the queerest generation yet—according to LGBTQIA-focused publication Them, the current self-diagnosing TikTok scrollers and Y2K obsessives are inherently far more comfortable exploring their sexualities and gender than previous groups. Surveys have recently shown that 15.9 per cent of gen Zers would describe themselves as queer or transgender.

Bumble has spotted a clear shift among young daters who are seeking the same sexual diversity and inclusion that they see in the world, reflected in the apps they use to find meaningful romantic connections. Relationship practices such as polyamory or solo polyamory have gained massive traction among young adults who’ve begun to seek partnerships outside of the binary monogamous format.

This diversity also includes people who aren’t seeking sex, which is an equally valid path to follow. Bumble also told us that from the data it has analysed, 34 per cent people are not currently having sex and are completely okay with it.

2. Dating Renaissance

First time dating app users—this one’s for you. Some may glance at the name of this 2023 trend and picture a slideshow of prospective partners donning corsets, puffed sleeves, feathers and ruffles. However, this particular renaissance is far more exciting and involves far less fanciful clothing.

Bumble’s data has picked up a rather interesting pattern, the fact that 39 per cent of the users on the popular app have ended a marriage or serious relationship in the last two years. It seems these newly singles are jumping into their second chapter with 36 per cent reportedly using dating apps for the first time.

So, if you’ve found yourself in a slump, still longingly holding onto photo booth reels and that one shared jumper, push away the kleenex and head over to a dating app which might help you pour some spice back into your life. Oh, and while scrolling, why not also fall back in love with Beyoncé’s magnetic house album, Renaissance.

Diving head first into these apps can be intimidating, so make sure to also take your time navigating these deep waters—and remember, not all fish are sharks! Although, you can always keep guardrailing (another one of the company’s 2023 trends) in mind, which states that establishing regular emotional boundaries should always be the top priority.

On Bumble, 85 per cent of users are looking for a long term relationship, so if you’re just hunting for a casual thing, maybe head elsewhere.

3. New Year, New Me(n)

Gen Zers are praised by some and criticised by others (boomers) for their relentless pursuit of diversity, inclusion and freedom of expression. We’re unwavering in our fight for progressive politics and we’re not shy about it—not very snowflake of us, hm? Well, it would make sense then that gen Zers who are romantically or sexually interested in men are looking for shared perspectives. And it turns out, they might be in luck.

Bumble’s third forecasted dating trend is ‘New Year, New Me(n)’. According to the app, conversations about gender norms and expectations have been front and centre. Over the last year, 74 per cent of men say they have examined their behaviour more than ever and have a clearer understanding of toxic masculinity and what is not acceptable.

It should be noted that there have been various debates about the validity of toxic masculinity and whether or not as a concept it actually helps to educate boys and men. The Atlantic, for example, noted in 2019: “The concept of toxic masculinity encourages an assumption that the causes of male violence and other social problems are the same everywhere, and therefore, that the solutions are the same as well. While themes of violence, entitlement, and sexism recur across communities, they show up differently in different places.” 

This comment encourages us to consider some of the nuances when it comes to tackling these issues—maybe dating apps are a good place to start? Bumble has identified a clear positive shift among male users of its app. Defying traditional romantic norms has an abundance of benefits for all those involved, from avoiding awkward conversations to preventing gender-based violence.

From surveying its users, the app found that more than 52 per cent are actively challenging stereotypes that suggest that men should not show emotions. On top of that, 38 per cent now speak more openly about their emotions with their male friends, and 49 per cent of men agree that breaking gender roles in dating and relationships is beneficial for them too.

And with so many more men taking the time to be proactive and prioritise relearning when it comes to these societal issues, maybe users could also partake in another popular dating forecast, ‘Open Casting’. Ditch the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ taglines and see what else is out there, you might surprise yourself.

So, there we have it, Bumble has bequeathed us with some of the freshest dating trends which could even persuade the most TikTok-obsessed gen Zer to shift their interest from golden retriever content to finding love online.

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